But chronic drinking has been linked by a series of studies to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can be dangerous to health. And the withdrawal that comes when alcoholics abstain from drinking has been linked to the same danger.

High concentrations of cortisol are associated with neurotoxicity, a condition that impairs memory, decision-making, attention span and learning, according to researchers from a number of institutions, including King’s College London, the University of Kentucky and the University of London, who participated in the study review. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands and by the brain during moments of high stress. It is also released during alcohol consumption.